Voting advocates threaten suit over Indiana Crosscheck law

An Indiana law set to take effect Saturday makes it easier for the state to purge voters from the rolls using a data-sharing program run by Kris Kobach (pictured). Voting rights advocates have warned that the measure violates federal voting law.

For several years, Indiana has been among the states participating in Kobach’s Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program, a controversial effort to catch voters registered in more than one state. But in April, the state passed a law that directs election officials to automatically cancel the registrations of voters flagged by Crosscheck.

In a letter sent earlier this month to Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, a coalition of voting rights groups wrote that the new law runs afoul of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which restricts when and how voters can be removed from the rolls. The groups said they plan to sue if Indiana doesn’t take steps to fix the problem within 90 days.

So far, Lawson hasn’t responded to the letter. A spokeswoman for her office did not immediately respond to the Daily Democracy’s request for comment.

Lawson, a Republican, is a member of the White House’s commission on voter fraud. Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas, is the commission’s vice chair and de facto leader.

Lawson, an ally of Vice President Mike Pence, has been in voting rights advocates’ crosshairs before. Last year, she helped initiate a state investigation into a group working to register African-American voters, including a raid of the group’s office, that shut down its work. The probe found no evidence of voter fraud. And last week, in her role as president-elect of a national secretaries of state group, Lawson said in Senate testimony that efforts to increase the federal government’s role in elections pose as big a threat as Russian hacking.

Until now, when Crosscheck has indicated that a registered voter in Indiana is also registered in another state, the appropriate county elections office has been charged with investigating. Before canceling the voter’s registration, they’ve been required to first make sure that the voter is indeed the same person who’s registered elsewhere, and send a postcard trying to confirm the voter’s address.

The new law, said voting rights groups, requires county elections offices simply to cancel any names flagged by Crosscheck as double registrants. That violates the NVRA’s requirement that states give voters notice and provide a waiting period before taking them off the rolls, the voting rights groups alleged. Those groups include Demos and there ACLU.

Just as important, the groups claimed, Crosscheck can easily lead voters to be wrongly flagged as being registered in two states. That’s because it sometimes finds matches based only on first name, last name, and date of birth, which many people can share. The letter’s authors cited studies casting serious doubt on Crosscheck’s methodology, including one that found it would remove about 200 legitimate voters from the rolls for every double-registrant it catches.

For years, voting rights advocates have called Crosscheck’s data unreliable, and have urged states instead to participate in the Electronic Research Information Center, or ERIC, a well-regarded data-sharing program run by Pew.

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